As if they were not even fazed by the burning at Taberah, the “rabble” began to complain about the year’s repetitive supply of manna that had become tedious to their taste. Like pharaoh who hardened his heart after he was given relief from each plague, these people only respond to their immediate circumstances. They do not understand and they do not believe.
The word “rabble” is found only here and probably refers to the Egyptians and other non-Israelites that left Egypt (Exodus 12:38; Lev. 24:10) with the Hebrews. They began to complain at Kibroth-hattaavah (meaning “Graves of Craving”) on their journey towards the Promised Land from Mount Sinai
Their complaint was not about the lack of food, but about the lack of variety of food. The Israelites had been eating manna for over a year. It began to appear each morning before they reached Mount Sinai.
They remember the good days and the good food back in Egypt: free fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. This variety of “free” fish would have been available in the canals from the Nile and the variety of vegetables would surely have been available in the land of Goshen in the Nile delta. But, none of these are available in the wilderness. Israel must endure this journey to the Promised Land by faith. They must know that something better than some fish and vegetables is available for those who endure patiently and follow the Lord into his Promised Land.
Manna is described by its look, its texture and its taste. It looked like coriander seed which is used for flavoring like we use sesame or poppy seeds or, like bdellium which is a pale yellow translucent resin. The hardened resinous manna would be ground on a millstone or in a mortar. The ground manna would be boiled and made into cakes. Manna tasted like something made from olive oil with a rich creamy flavor. Exodus 16:31 says these manna cakes tasted like honey.
The biblical text describes Moses’ response to the complaints of the “rabble” with the phrase “Moses was troubled” which is literally, “it was evil in his sight.” Moses knew the people’s complaining about the Lord’s provision and their glorious recollection of the fish and vegetables in Egypt would not end well.